A life in units (Part 4): ‘It’s just not cricket’ – fielding your strongest team

In the final part of our ‘life in units’ series, we look at the importance of understanding and planning around a team’s skills set.  We also consider the associated impact skill has on productivity, time waste and growth within the professional services sector.

As we enter cricket season, my Friday nights are encompassed with junior cricket training.  It’s great to watch kids pick up the planning and organisational skills that the sport develops.  For those of you that don’t know too much about cricket, it’s a game played in order of individual skill. 

The strongest batsperson starts the game, facing the opposition's strongest bowler.  As the game progresses , the team work through their player sheet in a predetermined batting and bowling order.  You may be wondering how this is relevant to professional services and I’m going to explain that below.

Picture the scene - the phone rings or an email pings in with an enquiry.  A secretary, receptionist or fee earner picks up the enquiry, takes the details and responds by placing an appointment in a calendar.  The appointment will be allocated based on their perception of who should do the work, or on the basis of a dedicated client relationship.  Spoiler alert – this is not the most efficient way to operate! 

As well as contributing to client delays and unbalanced workloads across teams, this ‘siloed’ way of working means that firms may not necessarily be ‘fielding the correct batsman against the no.1 bowler’.  Matching work content to the correct fee earner is of critical importance to delivering a timely and seamless service.  It can reduce waste, eliminate sign off and avoid duplication of effort.  Although it sounds basic, we frequently see companies falling in this area.

Moving to a more structured operating model need not be overly complex.  The starting point is the development of a skills matrix, where fee earner capability is mapped against essential elements of the role.  The matrix is then used to allocate work at the right level. 

Having a pipeline of matters that are within their capability allows fee earners to work consistently and at the right volumes to deliver real revenue for the organisation.  The time waste associated with the ‘stop and start’ of unnecessary research, approval, double checking, supervision and sign off being mainly eliminated. 

Whilst at first glance the approach may appear rigid, freezing people into their ‘batting order’, it is actually the opposite – it creates visible progression opportunities.  The skills matrix doubles as a structure development pathway for fee earners and hence creates an abundance of opportunities for CPD. 

Having work sat at the right level allows individuals to work across a bandwidth of tasks in which they are competent and comfortable in undertaking and hence, clients get timely right first time advice.  In cricket terms, it means no one needs to worry about a junior PQE getting ‘bowled out for a duck’ on a new matter, which is good news for everyone!

The skills matrix approach to work allocation, coupled with a thorough understanding of standard process times and work methods is a winning combination.  Your clients will benefit from a seamless right first time and best in class services without interruption or delay.   

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